Jets think physical approach is best against Rams' finesse

Sunday, October 21, 2001

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This week, the New York Jets will share more than a stadium with the Giants. They will share a philosophy.

It's time to get physical with the St. Louis Rams.

"I thought the Giants really bumped them around pretty good, and that's what kept them in the game and gave them a chance to win," Jets cornerback Marcus Coleman said of the Rams, who edged the other Giants Stadium tenant 15-14 last weekend in St. Louis. Today, the usually prolific Rams come to the Meadowlands to face the Jets.

"They're supposed to be the 'Greatest Show on Earth,' and they are coming to the media capital. The circus is in town."

In town, but almost certainly without one of its main acts, Marshall Faulk. The 2000 league MVP has a right knee bruise that coach Mike Martz expects will sideline Faulk for the game.

Faulk was injured on one of the many hard hits delivered by the Giants, who harassed quarterback Kurt Warner all day, getting six sacks and constantly hitting him. The Jets (3-2) believe that is the best way to deal with the Rams' high-wire act.

"A lot of times, they just outrun people," said Coleman, who must guard wide receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Az-Zahir Hakim, if not Faulk. "They have a lot of speed and kind of let each other go and play. They really have no boundaries.

"They are more of a finesse team; there's not too much power football there. We've got to be physical and let them know we're going to hit them."

The Rams, at 5-0 the NFL's only unbeaten team, are expecting that. Some of their toughest games have come against the likes of Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and the Giants, all aggressive, rugged defenses. After the Giants manhandled them for much of last Sunday's game, other teams are sure to follow that style.

"I don't know if the Giants did anything someone else can come out and say, 'We are going to do the same thing," Warner said. "I don't know if it's right to say we are a finesse team. We would love to run around all game and not get hit, or for me not to get hit throwing the football. But by no means are we going to go home and fold up our tents if they start hitting us."

And anyone who considers finesse to mean soft should remember that the Rams usually have won those matchups with ultraphysical defenses.

Just as significantly, the Rams bring their own impressive defense to games nowadays. The rebuilt unit, under the guidance of new coordinator Lovie Smith -- who worked with Jets coach Herman Edwards as an assistant in Tampa Bay -- has given the Rams a more balanced look. They resemble the 1999 Super Bowl champions much more than last year's defense-poor edition of the Rams.

"If we give somebody the MVP of the team so far, it is Lovie," coach Mike Martz said.

Still, even with the improvement in that unit, it's relatively certain the Rams will decide games with their offense. In the Jets, they face a schizophrenic defensive unit, one that has been abysmal at times, yet found ways to make enough big plays for the team to have a league-leading plus-15 turnover differential, and a winning record.

Just last weekend, the Jets fell behind Miami 17-0 at halftime, then blanked the Dolphins in the second half to win 21-17.

"We can't start off like we did against Miami," Edwards said. "We do that, it is really tough. It will be tough for me to find a speech at halftime for that one.

"They want to catch it and run. You get into that game, it is a track meet, and you are not going to win that game with them."

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